by Erinn Everhart,
Marriage and Family Therapist
December 9, 2020
Having a Baby in Quarantine 2020
Along with many of the strange and stressful occurrences in 2020, comes…having a baby during the time of lockdown and quarantine.
I had my third child this year, at the end of April, in the midst of a nationwide lockdown and the global COVID pandemic. It is anxiety producing enough to deliver a baby, without sprinkling in the added stresses of quarantine. I already had 2 prior full term pregnancies, both healthy and uncomplicated birth experiences, so the cards were stacked in my favor. Still, I could feel my blood pressure rising, and the all too familiar lump of anxiety in my throat, as I thought about delivering at a local hospital during a time when COVID cases were flooding the nation and the hospital systems. Not to mention bringing a baby home, and having to protect a small and more vulnerable being from a rampant and widespread illness.
In a very short amount of time, the entire world had seemed to turn on its head, and was swiftly becoming an Orwellian reality. People were donning masks, disengaging in small talk, even avoiding eye contact. Shopping had a get in and get out quick feel, as people desperately tried to grab their goods from the shelves of the stores and leave without accidentally bumping into an infected individual or grazing a contaminated surface. The other option was ordering groceries online, but with the additional charges for delivery, you ended up paying nearly the same amount in surcharges as you did for your items. With a greater sense of uncertainty hanging over our heads this year, the added stresses around child birth was intensely magnified.
Lack of Support
When you have a baby, it is generally considered essential to have the support of friends, family members, and the larger community. In American culture, we often have a shower, or other celebration with family and friends before a baby is born. This year, we were told to limit social gatherings, or to not attend them at all. When a significant celebratory milestone is missed, it can lead to a strong feeling of disappointment, even a sense of loss. A shower may not be a significant event for everyone, but it may be the moment that solidifies the sense of community around becoming a parent. Since I was about to have my third baby, I did not feel I really needed any additional baby items, yet, I still sensed I was missing the warmth and support that generally accompanies a celebration with close family and friends.
Many local hospitals and birthing centers had limited capacity, allowing only one additional support person in the room, and no outside visitors. Being forced to deliver a baby in isolation, with limited support, or even without a support person present can be a frightening experience, especially for a first -time mom. I was lucky enough to be able to have my husband in the delivery room with me for my third birth, although we had to tell our close friends and family that they would not be allowed to visit us at the hospital. It was certainly quieter this time than my other birth experiences had been.
After a brief stay at the hospital, we were swiftly released to the outside world with our brand new baby. As I gazed at this small, helpless infant, with fragile hands and feet, gasping tiny breaths of air, I was suddenly struck (for the third time) with the feeling, how can I possibly keep this tiny being alive? And now, to add to that, how can I keep this tiny being alive during a worldwide pandemic? Irrational fears and thoughts sometimes creep in during the postpartum period, catastrophizing every possible outcome. This is amplified by the fact that now, you and baby may be isolated for months at a time, with little or no support from the local community or even extended family members. You are left to care for this helpless life on your own which is already difficult enough, even in pre-pandemic times. The reality of responsibility sets in quickly. And if you are recovering from a traumatic birth, a loss, or a C-section, your emotional experience may swiftly grow magnified to the point of overwhelm.
I will also mention that consideration and screening for any perinatal or postpartum mood disorders is paramount. After the birth of my second child, I had spiraled into a horribly anxious state. I experienced daily migraines and panic attacks, I couldn’t eat, and had recurrent nightmares and sleep disturbances. I later discovered that I had been experiencing Postpartum Anxiety, a Perinatal Mood Disorder and complication after birth. When I consider other new parents experiencing this level of heightened anxiety or any other complex mood disorder during the pandemic, I have one urgent plea: these new moms need support more than ever. Even (and especially) in the midst of a pandemic, please check in on your friends who are pregnant or have recently given birth. A simple text or voicemail may make a world of difference, and additional support from family, friends, and a team of professionals may be necessary to help them cope and recover during this challenging time.
Grand Finale (The End of the Year 2020)
As we near the end of 2020, we are beginning to look forward to a New Year and to the possibility of a more hopeful future. We are looking toward a way out of the pandemic, return to a sense of normalcy, and a return to our greater community.
We may not have gathered or celebrated, and were not greeted by hospital visitors or babysitters during the early days after my daughter’s birth. But even as we inevitably struggled to adjust to our new family arrangement, we also grew closer. My other children learned to bond with their new sibling, and to “help mommy and daddy” care for baby. Of course, there were times of chaos in the mix, where my two toddlers were nothing but beastly little terrors. And my dear, tired, and overworked husband has been a rock of support for all of us, caring for our 3 small children while we all learn and attempt to balance the daily ins and outs of family, work, and life.
This year has certainly been a time for change, a time of upheaval from the way things were. Entering parenthood (again) has paralleled the effects of the pandemic in many respects. Change, transition, newness, uncertainty, anxiety and fear have all stepped into the picture. I realized that when we can learn to manage and accept these changes, for better or worse, rather than resisting, or fighting them, we can begin to adapt and pull through this interesting, weird, horrible, and crazy time with greater agility and grace.
About the Author
Erinn Everhart, LMFT is the owner of Every Heart Dreams Counseling, and is passionately dedicated to serving families in the community, including a specialty in providing support for new parents. Erinn has an office location in Roseville, CA, and offers counseling services In- Person and by Telehealth. Erinn has 12 years of clinical experience working with individuals and families. Erinn also contracts with Blue Sky Counseling Center as DBT Program Specialist. Erinn can be contacted at https://everyheartdreams.com.